Off the Beaten Track
Travelling the Lodge Circuit in the Northwest Rockies
Lee's Travellin' News
half day's trail ride at Wild Rose Guest Ranch.
courtesy of Jan Lee
Notwithstanding my love for the open road, I decided recently that
it was time for me to visit a few of those unique and out of the way
places where cars, RVs and 2-lane highways are not needed: the guest
ranches and back country lodges of the Canadian Rockies.
After all, I reasoned, it had been 32 years since I had last visited
the back of a horse, much less experienced the wonder of how to climb
up on one. It had not been nearly that long since I had hiked and enjoyed
back country trails, but I was ready. I craved the experience and change
of pace; staying for 3 days in a remote mountain lodge 7200 feet above
sea level, far from cars and cities would do me good.
So, kissing my husband, dogs and my best-friend-mother-in-law good
bye, I climbed into the car and headed east towards the Rockies. The
trunk was filled with an exquisite selection of muchies for the more
remote sections of the trip, a wise decision I later discovered.
the Horses" at Wild Rose Guest Ranch.
courtesy of Jan Lee
I followed Highway 3 east through the arid landscape of Osoyoos,
Canada's desert paradise and the checkerboard pastures of Rossland
that were reminiscent of the beauty of the British Isles. I arrived
at my first stop, Wild Rose
Guest Ranch, on the afternoon of the second day. An inveterate rambler,
I have never seen the sense of rushing one's travels or one's photo
opportunities - especially in an area that is filled with beauty.
Wild Rose is nestled at the base of the Rocky mountain range next to
Wasa Lake Provincial Park, approximately 10 km/6 miles off of Highway
93/95. Surrounded by pastureland and forest, Wild Rose enjoys all of
the benefits of country living. Its owners, Barry Rogers and Shannon
Langley, provide an intimate setting for one of the region's smaller
guest ranches. The lodge and guest house accommodate up to 10 guests.
During my stay the guests included a musician from London, 2 return
visitors from California and a family from Southern England. According
to Shannon, the ranch has enjoyed visits from travellers from all over
the globe, some whom are experienced horseback riders, and many such
as myself, who aren't.
of the World Ranch near historic Ft. Steele.
courtesy of Jan Lee
A wide variety of activities were available to the guests, including
horseback riding, river rafting, fishing and guided hikes. There was
also the old favourite for those who consider a holiday to be designed
for rest: reading in a quiet lodge overlooking a panoramic expanse of
the Rocky Mountains.
Approximately 16 km/10 miles south of Wasa on Highway 93/95 is Top
of the World Guest Ranch, a larger ranch with the same personalized
attention. Top of the World owes its name to its spacious setting, enticing
view of the surrounding area and famous sunsets. It is also "spittin'
distance" from Ft. Steele, the area's 1890's gold rush town.
Top of the World operates a full cattle ranch, which provides additional
opportunities for riders who want to try their hand at moving cattle.
Don't be mistaken though: this isn't a modern version of City Slickers,
where the novice riders are left to herd the cattle by their own ingenuity
and grit. Both Top of the World and Wild Rose take a personal hand in
ensuring that riders are trained and experienced before the horse is
turned over to them.
Bars Guest Ranch.
courtesy of Three Bars Guest Ranch
Both ranches are in the process of designing some unique programs for
the Y2K. Top of the World has already begun a multi-sports program for
energetic adventurers. Wild Rose is coordinating outings with several
well-known wildlife conservatories.
Three Bars Ranch sits 18 km/11 miles north of Cranbrook,
just off of Highway 95a. 10 guest cabins are situated in a spacious
park-like setting that offers both privacy and easy access to the ranch's
many activities. A board posted in front of the lodge lists the scheduled
activities of the day, which include cattle penning, fly fishing in
St. Mary's River and
a variety of children's activities. When I arrived the staff was in
the process of preparing a barbecue on the patio. It was a perfect setting
for the end of a perfect summer's day.
My travels then took me approximately 258 km/161 miles north to the
city of Golden
and a small heliport in the shadow of the Purcell Mountains. In the
words of one of Purcell Lodge's
owners, Paul Leeson, the 12 minute flight over the snow capped range
was a "magic carpet ride". It was also one of the most spectacular trips
I have ever taken.
beauty of the Purcell Mountains.
courtesy of Jan Lee
The 3-day stay (without phone, email or computers) was spent in the
majesty of some of BC's most incredible scenery. It is tremendously
humbling to walk out the door and realize you are surrounded by splendor
on every side. We spent most of our stay hiking about the 20-some kilometres
(13 miles) of trails that the owners Paul and Ann have built in the
immediate vicinity of the lodge. Every possible effort has been taken
to protect and preserve the ecology of the area, from building an environmentally-safe
hydroelectric system to flying in their winter firewood from Golden.
I am not sure whether I was more impressed with the spectacular beauty
of my surroundings or the owner's successful efforts to preserve the
natural beauty of this area.
During our stay, we were visited by the Northern Lights. Fingers of
light rippled across the clear summer sky, filling our vista with a
soft glow that pulsated and gradually faded in the moonlight. It seemed
as if the dance of lights lasted for hours - in truth, they were only
a few minutes long. That's the magic of this place I thought: Its beauty
seems timeless. So had been this short but unforgettable visit to the
To reach the Rockies region from Vancouver: Take
Highway 1 east to Hope (139 km/87 miles) and follow Highway 3 east,
the connector for Highways 93/95 and 95a.
From Calgary and points east: Take
Highway 1 west to either Banff, Alberta (128 km/80 miles from Calgary),
or Golden, BC (262 km/164 miles). At Banff Highway 93 will take you
south to Radium Hot Springs (132 km/83 miles from Banff) and the ranch
of your choice. There are also regular flights from Calgary to Cranbrook
area if you prefer to fly.
© Copyright Jan Lee
Jan Lee email@example.com
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articles by Jan Lee in the BC Adventure Network